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Press Room

For Immediate Release

Debra Humphreys, Vice President for Communications and Public Affairs
202.387.3760, ext. 422

Susan Elrod, Executive Director, Project Kaleidoscope

Project Kaleidoscope Executive Director Susan Elrod Appointed to Advisory Board for New Interdisciplinary Undergraduate Curriculum Project

NEXUS Initiative Sponsored by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute Will Create New Models for Teaching Interdisciplinary Science at the Undergraduate Level

Washington, DC—June 20, 2011—Project Kaleidoscope (PKAL) and the Association of American Colleges and Universities (AAC&U) are pleased to announce that Susan Elrod, PKAL executive director, has been appointed to a board advising the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) on its new NEXUS Initiative. NEXUS (National Experiment in Undergraduate Science Education) is a four-year, $1.8 million initiative that brings together four universities to create and share effective models for teaching interdisciplinary science, including new courses and ways of assessing how well they work.

“This is a bold and exciting experiment aimed at bringing cross-disciplinary, cross-institutional teams together to intentionally create new models for interdisciplinary science and mathematics learning with a competency-based focus,” said PKAL Executive Director Susan Elrod. “Interdisciplinary courses that help students make the connections are the way of the future, particularly as they prepare for careers in the health professions or in increasingly interdisciplinary research fields.”

Other NEXUS advisory board members include:

Carol Brewer
Professor Emeritus, Division of Biological Sciences
University of Montana
Founder, Prairie Ecotone Research Group, LLC

Myra Burnett
Professor of Psychology
Vice Provost for Academic Affairs
Spelman College, GA

Ken Burtis, Chair
Dean and Professor of Genetics
College of Biological Sciences
University of California – Davis

Cathy Drennan
Professor of Chemistry and Biology
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
HHMI Investigator and Professor

Bob Hilborn
Professor of Physics and Head of Science/Mathematics Education Department
University of Texas – Dallas

Jose Mestre
Department of Physics and Educational Psychology
Associate Dean for Research
University of Illinois

Claudia Neuhauser
Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs
Director of the Center for Learning Innovation
University of Minnesota – Rochester
HHMI Professor

Clifton Poodry
Director, MORE Division (Minority Opportunities in Research)
National Institutes of Health/National Institute of General Medical Sciences

The NEXUS initiative will bring together educators at Purdue University; the University of Maryland, Baltimore County; the University of Maryland, College Park; and the University of Miami. The initiative will result in the creation of an interdisciplinary curriculum that can be used at different types of schools and with different students. Participants in the project will also work to develop assessment approaches that move beyond testing students just on their factual knowledge and toward an approach that assesses students’ ability to demonstrate scientific competencies and apply their knowledge to complex problems.

The initiative grew out of work leading up to the 2009 release of the report, Scientific Foundations for Future Physicians. Developed by a committee of scientists, physicians, and science educators convened by the Association of American Medical Colleges and HHMI, this report recommended fundamental changes in undergraduate education and outlined eight interdisciplinary competencies that science undergraduate students should master before they go on to medical school.

Both NEXUS and the 2009 report are consistent with the principles guiding the ongoing work of Project Kaleidoscope. “PKAL and AAC&U are committed to help campuses develop models and implementation strategies that significantly strengthen interdisciplinary and integrative learning in undergraduate STEM programs, and we are very pleased to be involved in NEXUS,” said AAC&U President Carol Geary Schneider. “From the ground up, changing the way we educate science students is challenging at all types of institutions. The work of these collaborative teams will build new campus-level capacity to move from pockets of 21st century practice to integrative learning as an expectation for all those studying in STEM fields.” PKAL just released a summary report of its W.M. Keck-funded initiative on Facilitating Interdisciplinary Learning in Science and Mathematics. 

To read the PKAL report, see: For more information about the HHMI NEXUS project, see

About PKAL

Since its founding in 1989, Project Kaleidoscope (PKAL) has been one of the leading advocates in the United States for building and sustaining strong undergraduate programs in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). With an extensive network of over 7,000 faculty members and administrators across the nation, PKAL has developed far-reaching influence in shaping undergraduate STEM learning environments that attract and retain undergraduate students. PKAL accomplishes its work by engaging campus faculty and leaders in funded projects, national and regional meetings, community-building activities, leadership development programs, and publications that are focused on advancing what works in STEM education.

About AAC&U

AAC&U is the leading national association concerned with the quality, vitality, and public standing of undergraduate liberal education. Its members are committed to extending the advantages of a liberal education to all students, regardless of academic specialization or intended career. Founded in 1915, AAC&U now comprises more than 1,200 member institutions-including accredited public and private colleges and universities of every type and size.

AAC&U functions as a catalyst and facilitator, forging links among presidents, administrators, and faculty members who are engaged in institutional and curricular planning. Its mission is to reinforce the collective commitment to liberal education at both the national and local levels and to help individual institutions keep the quality of student learning at the core of their work as they evolve to meet new economic and social challenges.

Information about AAC&U membership, programs, and publications can be found at